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The Wisdom of Your Past Self

April 7, 2024 by  
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Anyone that has followed my blog over the years knows that I think very highly of the power of words, especially the words that you and I write down. I encourage everyone to “journal their journey” through this life. Your own words can be so powerful in helping you through it.

Usually at the end of a year or the beginning of a new year, I go back and revisit myself when I was 30, 40, 50 or 60 years old. In fact, I can even visit myself when I was 18 and 19 years old since that’s when I started my journal. Believe me, some of my thoughts back then were downright funny and crazy. But, more often, I am amazed at the things I wrote. Oh yes, there were many dreams and goals that I set for myself that didn’t turn out the way I hoped. But I did succeed with many and made progress on others so even though I was a failure here and there, I can see that overall, I did very well for myself.

But the big stuff that often jumps out at me as I read these old journals are the words that push myself to do better and, more importantly, to enjoy my life right now. Not only are there lessons to be learned in those pages, those words from my past self still continue to be very motivating years later.

I have such a wonderful time reviewing my past experiences including recalling my trips, the people I’ve met, the way my various goals changed and re-focused over the years and, most importantly, my inner thoughts along the way. Think about it–what a great thing it is to be able to relive and bask in all that was great in the weeks, months, and years of your past and also have the opportunity to learn some valuable lessons from both the good and the bad stuff that happened.

Many times, when I go back and read my inner thoughts and ideas, I say to myself, “Wow, I wrote that?”, or “Wow, where did that come from?” It’s like it came from some other person’s brain.

It’s very interesting to me that our own words and our past selves can give us motivation and inspiration. Here is a sample of some of the words I’ve come across in re-reading my journals. These were from January 29, 1998, in an entry entitled simply “Thoughts”. I should have titled it “Random Thoughts” though as they aren’t very connected, but they are still really interesting and important things to remember.

  • We involve ourselves in so many activities –games, sports, work, relationships, eating, drinking etc.–to distract ourselves from ourselves. Is making it in the world the most important thing about our being?
  • Climbing and coming back down from Mt. Everest is a perfect metaphor for life. When you get to the top you are only halfway.
  • Love is what we were born with, fear is what we learn. Love is our ultimate reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life.
  • Meaning doesn’t lie in things because things don’t love us back; meaning lies in us.
  • We overvalue what we perceive with our physical senses and undervalue what we know to be true in our hearts.

And the last, but not least, of these random thoughts:

  • Time only exists in the moment of right now. Time is an infinite series of “nows” strung together. The way we spend each “now” creates our destiny. When you are focused, time is your partner.

I do sincerely wish and hope that these few random thoughts might enhance your life and those people, friends, family and loved ones around you. And once again I strongly encourage you to write notes to yourself in a journal, on a notepad, or on a computer or even your phone. Later on, as you re-read your own words, you will be so very glad you did, and you may even be inspired by those words, ideas, and inner thoughts that you put down.

So, start writing in your own journal and you can look forward to experiencing similar thoughts and feelings when you read them in the coming years.

An Unusual Lesson from Monks

March 17, 2024 by  
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As you know, I love to travel. There are so many awe-inspiring, extraordinarily beautiful, and even startling sights all over this big world of ours. But I have to say, I am inspired by the people maybe more than the places I see. The way that other people live and the way they think can be so different in some ways and so alike in others that I often find myself comparing what I do and what I think with the ways and thoughts of the people I meet.

Some years back, I saw what I thought of as one of the oddest things. It was something I never thought I’d see, and it really struck me because it was incongruous to the ideas I had previously. I saw these Buddhist monks walking around their temple areas, looking down as they went, at something we are all very familiar with yet would not expect to see at a Buddhist temple–cell phones! Yes, these monks—anywhere from 8 years old to 80 or 90 years old—were walking and texting or talking on that very, modern invention.

It didn’t seem to fit at all, and it took a while to get used to seeing the simple Buddhist ways combined with modern technology. I thought that Buddhists traditionally renounced conventional living. But it occurred to me after a while, that they also attach great importance to community and isn’t keeping in touch part of that? And so, if cell phones help them build and strengthen community, then maybe that technology is a good and necessary thing.

And then there’s the Buddhist philosophy that change is inevitable. Here is a quote from Lao Tzu that really explains this: Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.

We all know that technology is all about change. I remember thinking about that a lot after that one particular trip to Asia when I noticed the monks on their cell phones. I still think about it sometimes, especially about how it must have taken the monks some work to get used to the idea of using cell phones.

Embracing change is really a very important idea, one that we should all make a part of our lives. Whether it’s a simple thing like not getting upset at standing in line, being in a huge traffic jam, dealing with the heart-breaking circumstance of illness or death of a loved one, or struggling with pain and health issues ourselves, we need to focus on accepting that these things happen. Sure, if there’s something in our lives we don’t like, we can certainly work towards making things more to our liking, but some change is inevitable and other changes are just things we can’t do anything about. When we have those kinds of changes in our lives, we need to work on making peace with them. Fighting changes by getting angry or depressed, or by acting in a destructive or non-constructive way will not make things better and often leads to more unhappiness.

I know it’s easy to say that we should accept change and let it go or embrace it, but it is so much harder to act on that idea than just saying the words. Now, I’m not saying that you should give up easily when you want things to be different, like when change makes things difficult or frustrating for you. We should all do what we can to make our lives, and our family’s and friends’ lives, better. But when it comes to the point where we realize nothing can be done, or to fight it will make things worse, we would be much better off letting it go and working with the change and not against it.

I think that’s what the monks did. All the ways we communicate with each other has pretty much moved into all this mobile technology and, I guess, the monks realized that if they were going to stay connected and build a community, they needed to accept the changes in the world and not fight against them.

I think there are things in all of our lives that we fight against without success or any real progress that we can accept without a major loss of quality in our lives. I guess the hard part is figuring out which things to keep fighting for and which things to accept as well as when to give in and accept them.

So, if there’s something you have been fighting against for a long time and nothing’s really getting better, maybe only getting more frustrating for you, it’s possible that it’s time to accept it and replace your frustration with calm acceptance and, yes, even happiness. Because once we stop stressing out over the things we can’t change, we have more room to be happy. So, let’s all try to make more room for happiness.

Changes to this Blog and to Our Lives

March 3, 2024 by  
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We all know that life has its big bumps, surprises, and setbacks. And, yes, it also has many wonderful, fun, exciting, and pleasurable moments. It behooves all of us to constantly remember to live in the great “right now” and appreciate the good times. But, when we have setbacks, we also have to stop and look back at how they happened and figure out what we can do to make things better in the future. It can be hard to both live in the moment and fix and plan for those bumps in the road.

I’ve written a lot about living in the great “right now” previously and most people know they should not spend too much time worrying about the future or beating themselves up for past mistakes or bad decisions. That can be hard to do though. If you are like me, you have to keep reminding yourself to think more about the moment we are in. That kind of thinking can be very critical for our mental and emotional health and our great enjoyment of life. Meditation can help with this. Meditation works because, if you do it right, you truly are living in the moment while doing it!

Knowing all this and preaching it to others, I still wake up worrying about what I need to get done in the immediate or not too distant future as well as fretting a bit over what I missed out on doing yesterday. I have noticed, however, if I take time to write down my next day’s plans and actions the night before I go to sleep, I usually wake up much more likely to just get out of bed and get going on my to do list. My mind seems to be so much clearer and my thoughts are much more positive in the “now moment” when I do this. 

Of course, we all need to think about the future and make plans, much of which is very fun and exciting like when planning a trip to Disneyland with the kids or a vacation to Europe. It’s the same with the past. We enjoy taking time (but not too much time) to relive our great experiences and the really memorable moments in our lives.

And then, of course, there is planning for the not so fun things. Sometimes there are things going on in our lives that make us realize we need to change things up. Recently I’ve been struggling with some health issues that made me stop and think that there might be some areas that I need to slow down in. This means that I have to look back at what I’ve been doing that I can maybe do less of and then think about how I want my future to look. It’s really been taking me out of the “right now” frame of mind. But I have been able to make some decisions and, I think, once I make a few changes, I can focus on my health when I need to and get back to living in the moment more and more.

One of the things I decided to do is to write posts for this blog just twice a month instead of every week. I aim to get them out on the 1st and 3rd Sunday each month. So, you can be sure to check in with me on those weekends.

It will be quite the change, after posting on this blog every week for nearly 15 years, to only write these twice a month, but it’s a good thing to recognize when change is needed. We all need to be really good about recognizing our priorities in life and be open to making the changes that will help keep us healthy and happy.

So, although going to just twice a month for this blog will feel like a big change for me, and maybe for some of you, thinking like this gives us a chance to really look around and figure out what other changes could really help lift our lives.

I’ve talked a lot about how important good health is to our lives as well as spending time with family and friends and all those other good things that keep us healthy and happy. So, maybe we can all take some time now to look around and see if there are changes we can make to be sure that time with our loved ones and our own health and happiness is a priority in our life.

Questioning Social Media

February 18, 2024 by  
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In today’s world, so dominated by social media, we may find ourselves under the impression that a lot of other people out there have near perfect lives.  I mean look at virtually anyone’s Facebook or Instagram and you’ll see all these fun pictures, pretty faces, amazing talent, and supportive comments. Much of what we see is the good stuff, and of course, there is nothing wrong with that, but it sure can make a lot of people feel and believe that their own lives, filled with challenges, big ups and downs, and stress inducing problems are really messed up, which can result in self-pity, depression and, in the worst cases, even suicide.

The fact is, nobody’s life is perfect or even close, but when you’re looking from the outside you might be tricked into thinking that other people are doing tons better than you because of the limited view you get. If you take time to look and probe on a deeper level, you will see that the surface view can be very misleading since people don’t tend to post about their failures and problems, preferring to show just their successes and fun times. But very often these positive posts hide troubled lives and minds.

So, if you really want to know the truth and gain insight into a person’s actual and complete life, so you have a realistic view and can be ready and open to help them, you need to dig deeper.  One easy way to do this is by simply asking the right questions.  For example, pick a friend or relative that seems to be doing well according to their social media postings and ask questions like these:

1.  What are the biggest challenges you are having in life right now?

2.  Do you ever get down or depressed? (If they say yes, ask how often and what causes it.)

3.  What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you?

4.  Do you think much about your own mortality?

5.  What in your life scares you the most?

6.  Have you experienced any great tragedy in your life? If so, what happened?

7.  Do you worry and think about tragedy striking you in the future?

If you take a little time, you certainly can add your own probing questions to this list.

I’m pretty sure if you question those who you think have “the perfect life” you will find, as I have, that no matter how rich and famous or easy their lives look from the outside, they too have their problems and challenges and many times much larger problems that you would have ever guessed.

Asking questions can help you see and understand, not just these other people, but also yourself. It can get rid of those feelings of self-pity or not being good enough. It can even lift you out of a state of depression, not just because you’ll see that your life is no worse, and sometimes better than other peoples’, but because looking outside yourself and looking for ways to help others can really lift your spirits and your life.

But I think, most importantly, knowing the challenges and problems that your relatives and friends are dealing with puts you in the perfect position to step up and help them overcome some of their problems, challenges, and obstacles.  This makes it a real win-win for you both. And all it took was asking a few questions!

Our Healing Brain

February 11, 2024 by  
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Our brains are so powerful. They can make physical changes in our bodies beyond what we would normally give them credit for or even really realize. There is a book that I’ve talked about many times before called Super Brain by Depak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi that is so full of great insight into the power of our brains. I read it again and again and often find things I missed the first time.

I’ve always been particularly intrigued by their thoughts on the placebo effect. The authors point out that any of us can, if we so chose, set up or create our own placebo effect at any time and without a sugar pill or any other kind of pill, because as they say, “anything you believe in can act as a placebo.”

This works because the body really believes what it has been told — that medicine it has been given is real. This goes to show that the mind can and does control healing of all kinds including pain, disease, and wounds that our bodies deal with from time to time.

“Being your own placebo is the same as freeing up the healing system through messages from the brain,” the authors write. “All healing is, in the end, self-healing. Physicians aid the body’s intricate healing system (which coordinates immune cells, inflammation, hormones, genes and much else), but the actual healing takes place in an unknown way.”

That’s a very powerful thought and one that could, if we take time to think about it and make use of it, do some pretty amazing things to help us take care of ourselves.

“In serious illness, doubts and fears play a marked role, which is why a practice like meditation or going to group counseling has been shown to help,” the authors conclude. That is certainly worth trying for most, if not all of us, whenever we want to treat our pain, disorders, or disease.

The authors suggest that there is a method through which anyone can apply their own placebo effect. It requires the same conditions as in a classic placebo response:
1. You trust what is happening.
2. You deal with doubt and fear.
3. You don’t send conflicting messages that get tangled with each other.
4. You have opened the channels of mind-body communications.
5. You let go of your intention and allow the healing system to do its work.

Our bodies have this amazing ability to heal themselves. When we get a cut on our finger or knee, we slap on a band aid and know that it will heal itself. In doing that, we’ve just let our brain send a positive message to our cells to do their job. But when we get a serious disease, we let our minds jump into the mix with all kinds of worry and negative thoughts doing pretty much the opposite of the list above. That is something you would need to change in order to take advantage of all the healing our minds can do for us.

If we are going to benefit from our own built-in ‘placebo effect’ we’ve got to, at a minimum, follow the list of 5 conditions above. If you can do that, you are supporting your body’s ability to take care of you, just as it is supposed to do.

A Kindness Lesson from Investing

February 4, 2024 by  
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All of us can spread kindness and other good stuff around and many people do but where do they usually start? I think they start right at home with family and friends. But if you want to spread good works and good words beyond that, you probably need to use something I learned about in my many, many years of investing in real estate. That thing is compounding.

Let me try to motivate you with numbers showing how a great idea, a good deed, and/or motivating words can spread and become huge. Let’s call it “good message compounding”.

If any one of us passed on a helpful message or did a kind deed and encouraged the recipients of our kindnesses to “pay it forward” to, say, ten other people and then asked that they also request their recipients to keep it going by passing it along to ten more and everyone kept that going, what potentially could be the results?

Shockingly, if everyone in the chain were to do this and that passing it on continued 6 times or through 6 levels of people, your message or deed could affect more than one million people! If it went through 9 levels of people, you could influence or help more than one billion people!

Of course, not all those first 10 people would follow through and pass it on and even if the first ten people did, we can be pretty certain that not everyone down the line would pass it on. But the point I want to make is that it is possible to end up with huge numbers of people getting your message or being impacted by your good deed because of compounding. If you keep that “huge potential” in mind, it can really be such a super motivator for you and for all of us to push ourselves to do and say more to help others.

So, I would encourage you to keep firmly in mind all those people, up through the 9th level, and the potential of over a billion people that you could potentially help. Even though this “good message compounding might not multiply into a billion, it could certainly multiply into hundreds of good messages and deeds and probably even more than that. And that ain’t too bad coming from one little human on this planet of more than 7 billion people.

In my world, that’s pretty exciting, knowing you, as just one person, can have that big of an impact for good in the world. And it all comes back to you in the great feeling brought on by the happiness you see your efforts bring to other people’s lives.

Precious Days

January 28, 2024 by  
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One day doesn’t seem like very much time and if we get a lot of good stuff done or we do nothing but watch TV all day it may not seem to make much difference in our world let alone the rest of the world.  Hey, it’s only one day. No big deal. But those single goof-off days can add up quickly and none of us have nearly as many days as we might figure to accomplish what we want, especially if we set our minds on big and lofty goals.

Even if you are only 25 years of age right now, that still gives you just over 27,000 days to age 100.  Now to some people that might seem like a lot of days but to me it’s a pretty small number, therefore I am inclined to think that to waste even one day is a very serious matter, unless of course you don’t have any big and lofty plans and goals.

The good news, however, is that if you are keenly aware of your hours and days as you experience those days of your life then you will be much more likely to not only set good, worthwhile and important goals but you will be many times more likely to reach those goals. And because we all have a limited number of days—whether it’s 10,000 or 27,000—we need to set strict time deadlines for those goals. If we do that, then we are much less likely to waste those precious days and more likely to reach our goals.

When I was only 37, there was an article about me that appeared on the front page of the Sunday Register Star, a newspaper in Rockford, Illinois. The article was titled “He Quit Bragging after his First Million”.  Every once in a while, I re-read the story that they wrote about me and I am always a bit surprised at the mention of my beginnings as a construction worker, 16 years prior, in Rockford. I was making only $4.50 an hour back then but I had already set my sights on becoming a millionaire. 

Even at the young age of 21, I was acutely aware of this thing called “time”. I had figured that even working as hard as I was, making just $4.50 an hour would only bring me a mere $9360 in a year and even after 50 years, I would only have made $468,000. Of course, when I considered that I would have to spend money to live, I quickly figured out that there had to be some formula or secret to becoming a millionaire because just working an hourly job wasn’t going to do it.

I was to find out later, using each precious day to look for the answer, that there was, in fact, a formula to making millions and one that doesn’t require a person to invent Facebook or Amazon or some hi-tech computer program. I’m convinced that if I hadn’t realized how critically important each and every day was and how few days there are in a person’s life, I wouldn’t have spent my early days searching for the right financial formula. The idea of my limited days kept me motivated.

So, please, never forget the great and precious value of a single day in your life and spend it like the precious thing it is.

Getting Serious About Deadlines

January 21, 2024 by  
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While I was making plans for a trip to Kauai recently, I was hit by a pretty powerful thought. I was thinking about how I am really organized and efficient when it comes to traveling. I make lists of items I need to take, the things I have to do before I leave, and the people that I need to meet with, email or call before I go. My trips can be lengthy sometimes, so I know all these things need to be done, without question, and there is always an immovable deadline to meet — my flight out. This kind of deadline pushes me to become an almost perfect picture of efficiency and effectiveness.

In other words, when I am truly motivated, I can plow through dozen of tasks quite quickly and smoothly. The motivation for this when I travel is usually that very fixed and non-movable deadline that I couldn’t easily change without a huge expense and hassle. And so, it’s a deadline I am not willing to miss.

Especially now, still early in the beginning of a new year when setting big goals is still on my mind, I get to thinking about how important this is — having goals with deadlines we are not willing to miss. Deadlines, ones we adhere to, are a huge part of what pushes us to be more effective, more efficient, and ultimately more successful!

Think about that for a moment.  Look at your own habits and behavior when you know you have a flight or other seemingly immovable deadline to meet. Don’t you get done what needs to be done? The great lessons here are:

  1. We all need to recognize how very beneficial it is to have deadlines attached to our goals.
  2. We need to be serious about setting goals with absolute time deadlines that will drive us to do what needs to be done.

Never forget that you and I only have maybe 700,000 hours to get things done in our lifetime, so it’s important to use our time wisely. If you want to accomplish a lot in your life and do big things for yourself, your family, your friends, and for mankind, you need to be efficient and well-motivated.

So, with your next goals, pretend that your deadline is like a flight you have booked to Paris or Hawaii and if you miss it or have to postpone the flight it will cost you a lot of time and money.  Depending on what your goals are, missing a time deadline may actually be more costly than changing a flight. In the long run, a missed goal could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars or even worse if you have a huge loss of confidence or damage your self-esteem. 

The bottom line here is that you should make time deadlines your biggest friend, helper and partner by seeing them as the important, unnegotiable deadlines they really are.

The Best Year Ever

January 14, 2024 by  
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Have you recovered from the holidays yet? If you are like me, probably not.  It sure is a great and special time of the year, just super busy.  But there’s nothing like family, friends, and lots of giving at this time of the year.

So, now that it’s over, most of us have been thinking of this new year and what it is likely to bring. And if you are smart you will plan and set goals so that the new year brings you what you want it to bring, rather than what just might happen to you.

For me, I usually begin my planning by reviewing the past year.  I go through my planner week by week, reading my notes, my do lists, and my activities.  Then I review my goals and see which ones I’ve accomplished and which ones I didn’t.  Yes, that can be a bit of a downer, but it also gives me a gentle kick in the butt and a renewed determination to work harder in the coming year. And if you don’t have a record of your past year’s goals and accomplishments, just write down all the things you can remember and maybe ask your family and friends to help you remember all you did or hoped to do.

Then sit down and write out what you want to do this coming year. I think it is best to remove yourself from all distractions so you can really stay focused on the task of planning your life for the next 12 months.  I love to sequester myself on a long flight where I can’t be interrupted by phone calls, texting, and emails. On a plane, I also don’t get diverted by picking up a book or file or any other stuff like that since I am not at home or in my office where I can see and easily pick up something that takes me away from my planning.

We don’t all have regular travel plans and flights to do that on, but you can go to a coffee shop or a park or a library or whatever eliminates your usual distractions.

Once you have that place and time, look over your review of what you did and didn’t do the previous year, and begin writing down what your goals and objectives are going to be for this year. And don’t undersell yourself. Aim to make it the best year of your life. There’s no reason that it can’t be. It’s all up to you.

Like I’ve said many times before, “I am preaching to myself as I preach this message to you!” So, let’s you and I get to work on this and make 2024 the best year ever!

A Matrix for Your New Years’ Goals

January 7, 2024 by  
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Last week I talked about a book, The Five Best Decisions the Beatles Ever Made. Those decisions will be discussed in the future, but it got me thinking about a lot of the great books I’ve read over the years. One super helpful book that I keep going back to is Super Brain by Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi.

In this book, they basically give you the power to accomplish whatever goal or goals you set for yourself. As they put it, the “secret isn’t exerting more willpower or beating yourself up for not being perfect. The secret is changing without force.”

So, what does that mean? It means that to achieve goals and objectives in your life without force you need to create a type of matrix, or set of rules, for making better choices.

Obviously if you are trying to lose weight you wouldn’t set up a matrix that includes things such as:

1.         Eat more meals at fast food places.

2.         Stock more ice cream and donuts in the house.

3.         Watch more T.V.

4.         Drink more beer.

5.         Hang out with unhealthy people.

For your matrix to work with a weight loss objective you would list items that were the opposite of those listed above because you would be better served if the list contained 10 or 12, or even more, positive directions that you would follow that directly support your weight loss goal.

For example, the book Super Brain gives a wonderful matrix for a positive lifestyle:

1.         Have good friends.

2.         Don’t isolate yourself.

3.         Sustain a lifelong companionship with a spouse or partner.

4.         Engage socially in worthwhile projects.

5.         Be close with people who have a good lifestyle–habits are contagious.

6.         Follow a purpose in life.

7.         Leave time for play and relaxation.

8.         Keep up satisfying sexual activity.

9.         Address issues around anger.

10.       Practice stress management.

Another thing the authors wrote that I really liked was that, “Success comes when people act together and failure tends to happen alone.” This has certainly been the case with me and my life with everything from making tons of money to losing weight to being in great shape. I’ve been so blessed to be able to hook up and hang around all the right people who have made it so much easier to start and stick with a particular matrix and reach my goals.

Go ahead and start creating your own matrix for what you want most at this time in your life! It will be a strong start to achieving any goal and is a great way to start out in this New Year.

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